I’m going to talk about SOE’s Sentinel’s Fate expansion for EQ2, but what I’m saying applies to pretty much every ‘boxed’ expansion (even if that box is virtual) for MMOs. Try to keep that in mind.
Yesterday I went to Best Buy and bought Sentinel’s Fate. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision. I had been rolling the idea of returning to WoW around in my head, and Petter convinced me not to, but the ‘new MMO in my life’ seed had been planted. Not that I’m new to EQ2; I’ve played it on and off since it launched. But I haven’t played it for nearly a year at this point, and hey! New expansion. So why not?
There was a standard edition for $40 and a collector’s edition for $70. As far as I could tell, the difference was that the $70 version came with a mount. There were some physical gee-gaws too, but Angela has the collector’s edition so I figured I could play with her figurine if I really felt the need to do so. $30 for a mount sounded insane; maybe there were other differences that I didn’t pick up on. Frankly $70 was out of my price range so I didn’t look too closely.
So I pay my $40+ tax and get home. Don’t really need the disks, I’m told. I can just patch in Sentinel’s Fate once I activate it on my account. To do that I have to re-subscribe of course. $15 for a month. I start the patcher expecting it’ll run overnight or something. About 15 minutes later it was done.
And it struck me that I’d spent $55 to play this new content for a month. That seems steep to me; I could’ve bought a brand new MMO I’d never played for that much. Most new games cost $50 and give you a month to play for free. By deciding to return to EQ2 I’m actually paying $5 more than I would to play a game I’ve never played before.
And, from an emotional point of view, the fact that it could be patched in very quickly made it *feel* like a small expansion. I know that’s silly… basically I’m faulting a really efficient patcher and that’s no honest reflection of how big the content is. Or maybe something is fubar’d; I haven’t patched my client since maybe last summer at some point. How could it patch so quickly!? Is the new streaming technology built into Sentinel’s Fate?
But I digress. I think $55 is a lot to ask of people who’re returning to your game, and who represent potential sustained increased income if your content hooks them.
I was fine paying $40 to see what was new in EQ2, and this isn’t a case of bait-and-switch or anything. Sony is very above-board in letting you know you’ll need a sub and all that. But for some reason this time it just ‘clicked’ that I was paying $55, not $40, to try the new content, and that’s sort of soured the experience for me before I’ve even logged in.
The solution? Give a 30-day time credit with the purchase of a boxed expansion. When you activate that expansion, activate the account for 30 days (or extend the duration for already active accounts). Sure, that’s going to be a big dip in subscription income for a month, but think of the goodwill you’d generate and potential long-term increase in revenue. Alternatively, give the 30-day credit only to accounts that have been inactive for 3-months; then you’d just be covering people newly returned to the game (though that could be a real PR nightmare).
Anyway, I think next time an extension for an MMO I’m not currently playing comes out, I’ll wait for a sale or a price drop.